Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Casablanca, Morocco – a city modelled after Marseille and famous for its art deco buildings and, of course, the Humphrey Bogart and Ingred Berman classic. Your family adventure officially begins with a welcome meeting at 5 pm, but because there’s only a little free time included here, we recommend arriving a day earlier to fully explore the city. A trip to the Hassan II Mosque is a definite highlight, or why not wander around the old medina, watch the locals play football on the beach or sip a glass of sweet mint tea in one of the many cafes.
Taking the train in a foreign country is an exhilarating experience and after breakfast this morning you’ll catch one from Casablanca to Meknes, one of Morocco’s four historical capital cities. Sultan Moulay Ismail turned Meknes from a provincial town into a spectacular Imperial city during the 17th century, and you can visit his immense Heri es Souani granary and crumbling palaces. Your leader will take you on an orientation walk around town with an opportunity to have lunch at a local cafe in the medina, then the rest of the day is free to explore as a family.
Travel through rolling hills and olive groves to the archaeological site of Volubilis, en route to the great city of Fes. This World Heritage site was once a provincial Roman capital, a distant outpost of the empire, and the remains are really impressive. Take a tour around the ruins with a local guide, checking out the buildings and fantastic mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus. Continue for two hours to Fes, where you will spend the next two nights. This is the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco. It’s vibrant, noisy, fascinating and a feast for the senses with a huge, well-preserved Old Town that’s the mother of all medinas. The afternoon is free to explore and there’ll be something to surprise and entertain the family at every corner.
After breakfast take a guided walking tour of the Old City, known locally as Fes el Bali. Step back into the Middles Ages as you explore the labyrinth of the medina, which buzzes with craftspeople, markets, tanneries and mosques. This isn’t your average shopping centre, and donkeys pass through the car-free streets piled unbelievably high with goods. Explore the separate speciality sections of the souq then spend some time overlooking the dye pits at the Chauwara Tannery, then watch traditional potters at work in a ceramics victory. Tonight, why not get together with the other families enjoy a delicious dinner of favourites like harira (chickpea soup) and chicken-stuffed pastilla with couscous.
Today it’s time to leave the city behind and embrace the simplicity and beauty of the Middle Atlas Mountains. Take a private minibus through fertile valleys, pine forests and barren, rocky landscapes for approximately 4 hours. You may see wandering nomadic shepherds as they tend to their flocks, or even catch a glimpse of barbary apes – North Africa’s only monkey – before arriving in Midelt. This is a market town, originally built as a base for mining in the area, which is surrounded by farms and orchards. Take a walk exploring the village of Bremmem for an insight into the local farming life, or perhaps check out an optional traditional music performance in Midelt.
Merzouga (Sahara Camp)
Travel by private minivan toward the mighty Sahara, with plenty of chances to stop and take in the views of kasbahs and palmeries – lush valleys with date palms, fields and orchards. As you pass through towns like Erfoud and Rissani, you’ll see the scenery change between barren mountainsides and fertile valleys until you reach the small Saharan village of Merzouga. On arrival, leave your large baggage, pack a daypack and saddle up for a one-hour camel ride into the desert at the Erg Chebbi dunes – huge windswept dunes located just 20 kilometres from the Algerian border. Leave your gear at your overnight camp set next to a simple hotel and then ride camels into the edge of the Sahara at sunset. The dunes are stunning, especially as the evening light plays across them and sets off the colours. Tonight you will camp out in traditional style, with the chance to try some fantastic local cuisine while you sit around an open fire, enjoying lively music and dancing under the stars.
A scenic drive past ancient kasbahs, former military outposts, mountains, valleys and fields will take you to Ait Benhaddou. For lunch, stop at Ouarzazate which looks like it’s out of a film. Funny thing is, this is a location used for many Hollywood blockbusters – be sure to ask your local leader about what’s been filmed here. After lunch, continue to Ait Benhaddou which was once a crucial stop for carvans as they carried salt across the Sahara. Today, its grand kasbah has been listed as a World Heritage site and you’ll enjoy a tour of it in the afternoon. For dinner, enjoy some classic Moroccan fare – tajine and couscous.
Strap in – you’re Marrakech bound today. Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Be enticed by the alluring scents and brilliant colours of the spice markets, the sounds of the musicians, the rich folds of carpets, delectable foods, acrobats and perfumed gardens. Perhaps join the thronging crowds for dinner at the famous Djemaa el-Fna – one of the largest public spaces in the world and unique to Marrakech. When night falls on this square it transforms in to a hive of activity. Henna-painters, performers and storytellers share the square with a street food bazaar, packed with stalls loaded with Moroccan delicacies, including snail soup! Perhaps enjoy a bite of famous Moroccan pastries with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and then maybe finish your day with a cup of tea on one of the roof-top restaurants overlooking the square.
Enjoy a guided tour of Marrakech after breakfast, including the beautiful Palais Badi. The afternoon will be free to explore, so perhaps head to the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its 12th-century minaret, which was the prototype for the Giralda Tower in Seville. Wander through the tropical gardens of French painter Jacques Majorelle, which are now owned by Yves Saint Laurent, then you may like to check out the Palais Bahia. Whatever you decide, the experience of exploring Morocco’s medinas is a fantastic experience in itself, but your leader will be on hand to help you give suggestions on how to spend the day.
With no activities planned for today, your family’s Moroccan adventure comes to an end today.
Meknes - Guided walking tour
Volubilis - Guided tour
Fes - Guided walking tour
Midelt - walking tour Berrem Village
Marrakech - Guided walking tour